A Climate of Denial
Climate change is a reality. There is no denying that. Of course the climate changes all the time, due to environmental factors such as massive volcanic eruptions, which change the way UV radiation and heat dissipates. The climate has always been changing, and will always change, but this time around, it’s not a natural factor that is causing this change. It is us.
The consensus is in: The current climate change we are seeing is happening due to human activity, and as much as we don’t like to face up to that fact, it doesn’t change the truth of the matter.
Recent news is that 97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is either caused by or exacerbated by human activity. It is agreed that the human impact on the planet has caused potentially the most dangerous environment for humanity ever before experienced, and that action must be taken on a global scale to ease, stop and hopefully even reverse this trend. While sea ice disappears and extreme weather events are becoming more commonplace, we are now seeing the first of the climate-change refugees, with people being forced to leave their homes because of the retreating sea ice in Alaska.
So why are people in denial about this fact? Why are people so vehemently opposed to the idea that humanity could have such an affect on our global environment? We all admitted in the 1980s that CFC production was causing ozone-layer depletion, which has been stemmed by global action on the production of CFCs in refrigerants, aerosols and Styrofoam, so what is different about the idea of global warming caused by excess pollution that is different from ozone depletion?
The reasons are many and varied, but none sums it up better than an article at The Guardian UK titled “The 5 stages of climate denial are on display ahead of the IPCC report“. Emblazoned with a full-face photograph of Rupert Murdoch, the article identifies these five stances on climate change as the full spectrum of denial of human-caused climate change denial:
- Deny the problem exists
- Deny we’re the cause
- Deny it’s a problem
- Deny we can solve it
- It’s too late
The article identifies the Murdoch media outlets as a major source of these denialist stances, and sees these five stances as common in the rhetoric spun by the Murdoch media. When the mainstream media spins these kinds of falsehoods, what chance is there that human-caused climate change acceptance will ever become mainstream? What do the likes of Murdoch have to gain from this denial?
The biggest hurdle, I think, to quashing these denialist stances is the dependence we have upon fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are dually to blame for this trend; Fossil fuels keep the world economy moving, so those who depend upon these fuels to stay in business are the loudest opponents to climate change acceptance, yet it is the very burning of fossil fuels that is causing the problem to begin with. In short, we need fossil fuels, so to blame them for the problem is out of the question.
Denial, in all its forms, is strongest when people take the blame personally. The threat of catastrophic climate change seems miniscule when compared to the alternative of changing the way we do things, such as reduction in usage, alternative energy sources etc. If a person reads that the “leftie greenies” want to take away their gas-guzzling 4WD, they react with hostility, as it seems like an affront to their lifestyle. Let’s face it, nobody wants to change the way we do things.
Even more dire is the trend in world governments toward the quashing of public science around this subject. As I noted in a previous blog, the Australian government is following the lead of Canadian and UK governments in destabilising the base of scientific importance in the country, thereby moving any conversation about climate change into the hands of the mainstream media and the governments themselves.
The picture is pretty bleak, and it doesn’t look like it will get better any time soon. The jury is not out on this issue. It is a very real problem. All we can do is fight for better education and better availability of information for the general public, and hope that the message sinks in for the majority of people. But hope is not a method for change.